Rockin’ out in the kitchen

Or, rather, rockin’ IN.  Since the last update, we now have floors and countertops.  The countertops are definitely a rock.  The floors are hardwood and deserve a post on their own in time.  We did exactly none of this work ourselves, but I’ll elaborate below on how we picked the material – decisively and on the spot, my favorite kind of decision!

Here is how it looked before the counters:

photo 3

With the counters added:

photo 1

Note that we covered the cabinets with clear plastic for sanding and refinishing the floors.  Vacuuming saw dust out of new cabinets is no fun.  Here is a close-up of our still-dusty granite (see that area in the middle where I wiped off the dust?):

photo 2

The granite is called “Blue-in-the-night granite” and a better photo of it can be seen here or here.  At first glance, it just looks like black granite, but as you study it closer you can definitely see blue sparkles.  Before I had decided on granite countertops at all and certainly before looking at countertops, I actually saw this granite in the kitchen of our cabinet designer when I was over there ordering cabinets!  I was pretty much sold immediately since I’m a sucker for blue sparkles and it is subtle enough where you can still work it into any decor.  After the paint color debacle, I am staying away from shades of brown and tan in the expensive decor at least (except wood).  Blue-in-the-night granite is a middle-of-the-road granite in terms of price.  Without even entering an official decision process, I made that decision easily and went and bought a slab of granite on the spot.

Lesson #1: Granite is sold by the slab.  Our kitchen took almost exactly one slab so it was actually well priced compared to say, a kitchen that is 1.5x the size.  That kitchen owner, which would only need the area of 1.5 slabs, would still need to buy two whole slabs, losing the cost of the rest (unless you’re clever and use it for your bathroom or something).  In engineering terms, the cost of granite with kitchen size is a step function rather than a smooth increase.

Lesson #2: Contractors actually buy their own materials and receive discounts, so it is actually better to let them buy it.  They usually do recommend vendors, but most contractors receive price cuts at most stores.  As such, I ended up returning my slab so the contractor could buy the very same one for 20% off.  In the case of granite, I did not shop around (except one phone call to another store to make sure the price wasn’t totally off) since the largest part of the cost of granite counters is actually the cutting and install (75% of the total).  This was determined by the sub-contractor that our contractor works with and wasn’t negotiable – I tried.  We could have also hired our own sub for any part of the job, which we did for the floors, but it was not smooth scheduling and we opted to just deal with the cost on this one.

Lesson #3: Granite is not really “made” and it’s usually imported – although it will necessarily be cut locally.  I believe this particular granite was imported from Brazil but large granite slabs come from some really strange places (I saw Kazakhstan and Armenia for example).  It’s also not particularly sustainable for the environment.  Does anyone know what happens to old granite counter tops?  It seems like there is an opportunity for recycling kitchen counters to smaller area counters?  Granite countertops are pretty much the biggest fail in our kitchen from the sustainability and made in the USA front.  But, they are so pretty and practical…so we caved on this one.

Lesson #4: Some granite (like ours) is just speckled and pretty much consistent across a slab and different slabs are indistinguishable.  Other slabs have veins through them and are very different across and between slabs.  This means that there is usually a pre-lay, where you can see exactly where they will cut your counters and what features will be where.  Going to look at it was a giant waste of time for us 🙂 .  The granite cutting also apparently took 10 business days of down-time.  They could not cut the counter until it was measured and they couldn’t measure until the cabinets were in.  If there is unrelated things going on in parallel, you can schedule that in between, but otherwise the serial progress is on hold.  I’m sure we waited in line, but if you are selecting your own granite contractor, this is a conversation you want to have.  It was annoying to have everything held up for 10 days while we waited in line to get our granite countertop cut.

Lesson #5: I learned about recycled glass countertops way too late in the game (ie, after the granite countertops were in place), but it looks like IceStone in Brooklyn, NY makes them!

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